Archives for Interpreting

How do I become a Police Interpreter?

ChristianIt was years ago when an old colleague asked me what I planned for my future. Surprised by his question and knowing that he was passionate about computers I said I liked the English language. He laughed saying, “I could make a future for myself with my computer – what future could you make with your English?” That was more than 20 years ago, back in my native country.

I eventually made the decision to live in the UK and have been settled here for the past 13 years. During that time I have made a lot of English friends who visited my country for my wedding, where I acted as their interpreter. I felt important; I was their communication bridge.

It was then I realized that being fluent in English was not enough. It was difficult to process quickly in my head the English language into my native language and vice versa. Although I thought I had “good English”, that seemed not to be sufficient. I had a passion for the language and I had to find a way to improve my abilities. …read more

Interested in training to become an interpreter?

We are happy to announce our next Diploma in Police Interpreting course in Warwick!

police interpreting

Are you bilingual, have excellent communication skills and have been thinking of becoming a police interpreter? If you’ve been dreaming of becoming an interpreter in the criminal justice system, now is the time to make those dreams come true, with Cintra’s Diploma in Police Interpreting preparatory course. …read more

Cintra continues its partnership with INTRAN

doctor examining girl
Cintra is absolutely delighted to announce that following the recent procurement process, it has once again been chosen as a provider of face-to-face interpreting services for the INTRAN partnership, covering a large number of public sector and voluntary organisations in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Essex. This continues a working relationship which has already lasted since 2001, and which will allow Cintra to continue to serve many existing and new customers via the INTRAN Framework.

Cintra’s Chief Executive, Jerry Froggett, commented: “Having served so many public sector organisations so loyally for many years, it is especially pleasing that this will continue under the new INTRAN Framework, and we very much look forward to the future of this very long-standing relationship. Our loyal regular clients accessing Cintra’s services via the INTRAN Framework can continue to do so as they have always done when the new Framework agreement commences on the 1st July 2017.”

This news adds to an already exciting recent phase in Cintra’s interpreting business, with new contract wins for police forces (together with the renewal of existing contracts) as well as a partnership to enable Cintra interpreters to serve courts in the East of England leaving the company well placed to grow its overall interpreting operations during the remainder of 2017. Now holding positions on a range of national interpreting framework agreements, Cintra is fully accessible to the UK public sector. For further information about how Cintra can assist your organisation with its language service requirements, please contact Ben Ablett, Cintra’s Head of Sales & Marketing, by telephone, 01223 346675, or email,

Training interpreters to handle real-life dilemmas

 Many of our interpreters work in social services and care settings. Sometimes it does happen that they are the only witness to unsafe practices or intimidating behaviour.


thinking-about-the-time-1316649-1600x1200Mr Kovacs is working very hard this morning. He’s holding tight to his Zimmer frame, edging first one foot forward and then the next. Every now and again he stops to take a deep breath. It’s a  slow journey, but the physiotherapist isn’t impressed. There are no encouraging words, just brusque, rude instructions. When Mr Kovacs does his exercises, he is treated disrespectfully with no care for his comfort or dignity. His limbs are held roughly and manipulated in jerks and spasms.

You’ve been called in to interpret for Mr Kovacs in his physio assessment. You’ve not met him or the physio before, but after ten minutes, you think, ‘Something’s not right. This physiotherapist is out of line.’

Although he’s distressed himself, Mr Kovacs notices your concern over the care worker’s inappropriate behaviour with horror. He whispers a plea that you say nothing. Mr Kovacs is clearly in fear of the consequences. What do you do?

Promoting professional practice

Mr Kovacs’ story is a training scenario, one of several we use in Cintra professional development courses. Situations like this don’t crop up in every assignment, but experience shows us that not everyone works to the highest professional standards. We promote a professional code and offer our interpreters this sort of training because sometimes they are the only witness to unsafe practices or intimidating behaviour.

Maria-Teresa Capone, Professional Practice trainer for Cintra Translation

Maria-Teresa Capone, Professional Practice trainer for Cintra Translation

“In most situations, the interpreter’s role is to translate the exchange, not to comment or judge the interaction in any way”, explains Maria-Teresa Capone, our Professional Practice trainer,  (pictured, left) “but when you see something that isn’t right, of course, you ask yourself all sorts of questions about what you should do for the best.

Being a whistle-blower isn’t a comfortable place to be

In this scenario, the interpreters will be wondering if the elderly patient is safe in the care of this health professional. Suddenly it’s not an ordinary working day: you’re facing a very challenging ethical dilemma. ‘Should I ignore the patient’s request and just raise the alarm, or should I mind my own business?’ Yes or no, how you respond will have serious consequences for everyone concerned.

“And of course, adds Maria-Teresa, “you have to be quite a strong individual to challenge the actions of another professional. We all understand that being a whistle blower isn’t a comfortable place to be.”

“In this instance,” Maria-Teresa continues, “the interpreter’s position is quite a tricky one. If this involved a child, the interpreter’s obligations would be much clearer: they have a legal obligation to report any concerns immediately. Where safeguarding the elderly is concerned, however, the law is much more of a grey area.”

Cintra linguists are trained to consider wider ethical issues

Interpreters work alone, often in unfamiliar surroundings with no on-site support from colleagues. In our group training sessions, Cintra linguists take time out from the front line to understand the law, consider grey areas, and understand how their professional Code of Practice can help them make the best decision at the time. Maria-Teresa says: “Facing these sorts of ethical dilemmas in your day-to-day working life is obviously stressful and worrying. Our continuous professional development sessions give interpreters the opportunity to work out how to balance their professional obligations with their obligations as a citizen. It’s not easy, but it’s an important contribution to developing safe, responsible professional practices that work in the real world to balance everyone’s best interests.”


Contact us about training and continuous professional development for language professionals. 

‘Mr Kovacs’ is posed by a model. photo: Mokra/

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Interpreting the fun on Transfer Deadline Day

05_Cintra_transfer_day_photo_unsplash_Marcus_MoraesI love January! It’s the much anticipated opening of football’s transfer window, culminating in the fun that is #TransferDeadlineDay! I’m a huge Luton Town fan and already have loads of questions for our newly appointed manager, Nathan Jones. Will he work with the squad already there? Will he bring in some players he’s worked with previously? Will he sign the next Lionel Messi?

All this excitement got me thinking about the challenges and issues football clubs must face when transferring in new players and taking on managers from across the world.

New club, new kit, foreign language

How do clubs overcome the language and cultural barriers to integrate their expensive transfers into a tight-knit squad of players? New club, new kit, new country, foreign language: what happens when it comes to that first press conference appearance? There’s a case in point just this week, as Swansea take on new manager Francesco Guidolin.  He doesn’t speak English and will use an interpreter on the training ground. The club is apparently also keeping on interim manager Alan Curtis in part to do all the press and TV work!

Apart from taking the heat off Guidolin, there’s sound business sense behind that decision. You don’t have to look far for media hilarity over comments that have, shall we say, got a bit lost in translation.

Swansea’s new manager, Francesco Guidolin, will use an interpreter on the training ground.

In the 2012/2013 season, with his reign at Newcastle United in full flow, manager Alan Pardew brought in the likes of Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse and Sylvain Marveaux – all from French-speaking countries. Although their talent helped guide Newcastle United to their first European quarterfinal in eight years, the rumours were rife that all communication on and off the pitch was in French. All that did was alienate players from other parts of the world who had worked hard to embrace the English/Geordie way of life. Some even point to this as the beginning of the end for Pardew.

Neville’s innocuous tweet carried a very different meaning in colloquial Spanish.

My personal favourite football faux pas is Phil Neville’s managerial mis-step. After taking over at Valencia, he was so keen to build a rapport with local fans that he bravely tweeted in Spanish that he had just enjoyed an early morning run on the beach. Unfortunately, his innocuous 140 characters carried a very different meaning in colloquial Spanish. We won’t embarrass you by repeating it here, but follow the link to see why poor Phil’s tweet ended up all over the tabloids. Instances like this show that when reputation is at stake, well-meaning enthusiasm just isn’t enough.



Mauricio Pochettino was never seen on TV’s Match of the Day without his personal interpreter.

How do clubs combat miscommunications that can jeopardise performance? Some just seem to ignore the issue in the hope it’ll go away! The successful ones, however, work hard to make sure feet stay out of mouths and where they should be – on the pitch. Watford FC have a large Italian contingent due to their club connections and employ a linguist especially to make sure everyone is clear and iron out any misunderstandings. When first at Southampton, Mauricio Pochettino was never seen on TV’s Match of the Day without his personal interpreter. Other clubs take just as professional an approach, with trained interpreters and translators part of the team safeguarding their assets and their interests at, for example, contract discussions and overseeing legal and financial terms and conditions. Interpreters routinely attend medicals and injury assessments involving international players.

I’ve got my fingers crossed that, by the time the 2016 Transfer Window finally closes at 11pm GMT on 1st February, Luton will have unearthed a new international footballing star, giving us a chance at winning the league from our current position. In the meantime, I wish you all a happy #TransferDeadlineDay!

Anthony ‘Mad as a Hatter’ Gray (pictured above, some few years ago now) is Cintra’s Business Development Manager.

Football stadium photo credit: M.Moraes/


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Best evidence, child protection, ethical conduct and CPD – all on our AGM agenda

The interpreter’s there in the interview room at the dead of night, with the suspect and the interviewing police officer. What’s the interpreter’s role in ensuring best evidence?

In child protection cases the interpreter’s Code of Practice advocates impartiality and objectivity. Coming at it from a different perspective, social services professionals often feel that their interpreter colleagues should get more involved. So when the interpreter is caught in the middle as the mouthpiece of a vulnerable child how does he win that young person’s trust so that he feels comfortable enough to tell his story without the unintended consequence of potentially undermining best evidence?

A services provider working with the elderly wants you as the interpreter to take the lead in building a rapport with an elderly gent whose needs they must understand, but who won’t talk to his social worker. Our Code of Practice is clear that it’s outside the role and professional competence of the interpreter to add mediation and negotiation to the task they’re there to perform: interpreting. How do you support your social services client to communicate with their client, but without yourself becoming an active third party in the exchange?

These were some of the issues Dr Rebecca Tipton, Lecturer in Translation and Interpreting Studies at The University of Manchester, explored with us and our packed audience of interpreters and translators at our AGM last week.

Dr Tipton’s research centres on the challenges of public service interpreting and we’d invited her to speak at our AGM as part of our continuous professional development programme. As you’ll have gathered from the professional dilemmas she outlined, interpreters daily face what can be heart-rending situations involving some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Highly qualified in languages and interpreting, our interpreters working with front line services not infrequently find themselves called upon to go way beyond their role, asked to support other professionals in their – very different – areas of expertise. For example, one of our interpreters was recently left alone by a social worker who assumed she would take over her role, settling a frightened young mum and victim of domestic abuse into her room in a refuge.

Dr Tipton’s talk at our AGM is just one of the ways we help our interpreters work out the best course of action in cases like this. Between now and January we’re running a series of CPD workshops exploring a whole range of dilemmas – all based on real life challenges our interpreters have faced. We also run courses for service providers, helping them manage translation and interpreting services as effectively and professionally as possible.

If you’d like more information on our CPD programme and our training for service providers, contact my colleague Dominique van den Berg at


Photo of Jerry Froggett, CEO of Cintra TranslationI’m Jerry Froggett, Chief Executive here at Cintra Translation. 

High quality. Highly professional.

That’s my team!

To talk to us, call +44 (0)1223 346870



Image credit: Child reaching / free Kremer

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Translating and interpreting in Turkish

Turkish flag illustrating article Translating & interpreting in TurkishHi, I’m Serap and I am DPSI LAW qualified Turkish interpreter. I live in the UK and work regularly for Cintra, interpreting and translating Turkish to English and vice versa. I like and enjoy my job – let me give you an idea of a typical day in my working life.

My busiest working day is usually a Sunday, and this weekend was no exception. I’m a qualified police interpreter and also work for healthcare trusts, so although we were going out for Sunday lunch with family, I’m always prepared to go to a police station or hospital at short notice. We take two cars, so my husband doesn’t get stranded. And I keep an overnight bag in the boot. Once, after interpreting for the police over four days and nights, a court usher asked me why I wasn’t wearing a suit. Now I take clothes for interpreting in any situation – police stations, courts, hospital waiting rooms and wards, people’s homes and sadly, even mortuaries.

This Sunday the call from Cintra – a police job – came while we were still at home, so it was easy to for us to go into the routine that gets me on my way as quickly as possible. Cintra works with forces across the East of England and the Midlands, so while my husband made me coffee and a sandwich for the journey, I found the police station on my sat nav. My average ‘commute’ time is 2.5 hours, and I keep in touch with Cintra by Bluetooth, so if I’m delayed the Cintra manager will let the client know. That lets me focus on the job, and I like it that Cintra know all their interpreters by name. To some agencies interpreters are just a number – and I’m not so keen on that!

Once I get to the police station I find out if I’m interpreting for a suspect, a witness or perhaps the victim of a crime. The work is highly confidential, so, sorry, I won’t be telling any true crime stories about this weekend’s particular case! The commonest are drink driving and sexual assault, but I have interpreted in a double murder investigation, and that was quite chilling, believe me.

It’s the interpreter’s job to translate everything the Turkish and English speakers say when we’re in an interview room. Even if a suspect or witness says in Turkish: ‘Don’t translate this.’ Or if the police officers talk about the weather, I translate the chit chat: everyone needs to know what’s going on, just as if the interview was all in English.

And I have to translate exactly what is said. Sometimes, because of the different ways our languages work, or even because of the educational level of the speaker, the words we translate sometimes don’t make much sense to the hearer. For example, Turkish has no pronouns equivalent to he and she: we just use it. So a suspect or a witness might tell me in Turkish: ‘It was talking to me and then it ran up and punched me.’

If I was translating this into English in a social situation, I could make assumptions about the two different people the speaker is referring to. But in a police interview, the interpreter can’t make assumptions. I have to say: ‘He or she was talking to me and another he or she punched me.’ When the police officers look at me like I’m crazy, I suggest they ask me to ask the Turkish speaker to explain for themselves in more detail.

We got through this weekend’s interview quite quickly, and although I missed Sunday lunch, I did get home in time to put my daughter to bed and check with the child minder for after school tomorrow. I’ve been booked to interpret for a health visitor who’s weighing a two-week-old baby. I saw the mum when she was pregnant, so it will be nice to see the new-born – and find out if it’s a he or a she: I’m pretty certain this one won’t be an it!


Cintra TranslationTo work with us here at Cintra, all interpreters and translators must be trained and qualified as Serap is to the required professional standards. Our linguists are assessed and security-vetted as part of the registration process, and are required to follow our Code of Conduct which stresses confidentiality and impartiality.

Cintra is one of the few agencies with its own in-house interpreter training and Diploma in Public Services in Interpreting exam centre. Through our specially devised courses, foreign language speakers who are new to interpreting can be trained and assessed and start working, before obtaining further qualifications, including the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting.

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17 ways to slip up on health and safety

2Let’s imagine we’ve had a busy morning and are on our way to grab a cup of coffee together. With us is a colleague who speaks three European languages, including English, but is a native Russian speaker.

We’re doing what you do in narrow corridor: walking fast, talking, gesticulating and twisting around. Just in time, I spot a pool of liquid up ahead.

In a split second, and ever mindful that 28% of the 77,593 non-fatal workplace injuries reported in 2013/14 were slips and trips, I throw a warning over my shoulder to you and our Russian-speaking colleague.

OK, you’ve been there. You can picture the scene. Now, let’s run the soundtrack. But hold on a minute – which of the 17* ways of saying, ‘Careful, someone’s spilt their coffee, don’t slip!’ will I plump for?




One of the great strengths and delights of English is the sheer number of words in the language: every time I open my mouth or put pen to paper I’ve got a working vocabulary of around 35,000 words to choose from. And I’ll keep adding one new word a day until I’m well into middle age.

Non-native speakers living in the UK work hard to keep up. They add between two and three new English words to their working vocabulary every day. But, by any count, building up a good store of health and safety speak is going to take them some time.

Non-native speakers aren’t only up against it coming to grips with our mix of idiom, dialect and regional accent. We love our catchphrases culled from sport, pop, TV and film. And don’t forget to factor in trending slang, and even perhaps the odd workplace obscenity. It’s no wonder that making assumptions about the language we use to warn of danger is fraught with danger.

English is rich and can be very precise, but for the non-native speaker working in the UK, our colourful, colloquial, idiomatic language is often more like a trippy, slippery minefield of misunderstanding – in other words, it’s an accident just waiting to happen.

*You can probably think of even more.

We’re working with an increasing number of companies to translate their Health and Safety policies and procedures into the languages their workers speak and read fluently. Companies and HR managers employing us to translate everything from policy documents to induction packages and factsheets report strong business reasons for investing in quality translation services. We can also provide interpreters in over 100 languages so that you can communicate with staff and customers who speak languages other than English.

related post: Penalties, prevention and ISO 45001: three reasons to translate health and safety policies for your migrant workforce

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All in a day’s work for Cintra interpreters: 22 hours in police custody.

police light G Lebrec freeimagesI spent 22 hours in police custody last week. So did my wife.

Don’t worry, we’re both qualified police interpreters, so it’s quite normal for the police to invite us down to the station for a few words. We don’t normally work together, but they needed both of us for this job; seven people held in custody on suspicion of false imprisonment. Though we knew what the term on the charge sheet meant, we did some research and found the legal definition of false imprisonment. We translated it and discussed it. We had all evening to prepare in our mother tongue for the sorts of issues and legal terms we’d need to translate quickly and accurately the next day.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

We got to the police station at 9am. The sergeant said: ‘I hope you’re ready to spend the next 12 hours with us, it’s going to be a long one’. He was more than right. Police interpreters are used to working anti-social hours and long hours don’t scare me. It’s a good way to challenge your brain.

We’d known that it was never going to be a straightforward job, and unusually, we’d even had time to prepare. Then, just as I was interpreting the ‘rights’ for the first suspect, he was further arrested for rape. My job just got even more challenging. More circuits in my brain lit up. I remembered back to the Diploma of Police Interpreting course I took with Cintra. We had a lovely lady trainer – a police retired officer – who shared with us some of her experiences getting to know the victims of sex crimes – and the criminal perpetrators. She introduced us to words that didn’t need definitions.

Back to the sergeant: he asked me to help interpret for the doctor so he could take intimate samples from the alleged male offenders. Well, the interpreter’s job is to explain what’s going on, and the sergeant was happy I was a male.

The solicitors started arriving, so things got rolling. Each consultation was one and a half hours long. Then solicitors had to be changed as they discovered conflicts. Before I realised, six hours had gone past. Back in the waiting room on a short break, I could hear my stomach rumbling, but it wasn’t the right time for lunch. A couple of new solicitors arrived. We had to get things going. You can eat later, I told myself.

Two hours later another interpreter arrived. That was my lucky break – I snuck out for a juicy McDonalds. And I managed to get some chicken for my wife. It was hard to find each other between interviews and consultations. She didn’t really enjoy that meal, bless her.

Half an hour’s break and that BigMac recharged my batteries. Back at the interviews the detectives were meticulous. They were all ears as I interpreted their blunt questions and the suspect’s answers. All this while my wife and the other interpreters were in adjacent interview rooms. Like me, they were listening intently and choosing their words carefully. It went on and on, and then it was time for the very last interview.

You could say I was the last man standing, so lucky me, I got to interpret for the last interview. It was 1 o’clock in the morning when we entered the interview room. The solicitor had to put a lot of questions. One and a half hours later: conflict! With that last solicitor gone, the police had run out of legals to call on.

After two hours of phone calls, looking in vain for solicitors, the police officers finally reached a solution. They could get a legal representative at another police station, so we bundled into cars and managed a quick transfer. Well, even at 3 o’clock in the morning, it was a 50-minute drive. Good thing it took me closer to home. And now my wife had finished her shift, at least she was able to turn up the expensive ‘central heating’ and sleep in the car.

I realised I was at that stage, past sleep, where I could go on and on. Just as well, because this final interview was very long and the questions from the detectives seemed like they would peel the skin off this man they had arrested on suspicion of rape.

Finally finished at 7am. I was not so much relieved as frustrated when I left the police station – 22 hours after walking in.

That’s it. That’s the end of my story. I can’t tell you why it was frustrating, or give you more details. I’m a police interpreter and the work I do is highly confidential.

Our interpreter blogger, Cristian, is originally from Romania and is a qualified interpreter with a Diploma in Police Interpreting.

Photo credit: Geoffrey Lebrec/


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Minding the gaffe in a global business world

handshakeA great article in yesterday’s Times from Jenni Russell, talking about social norms now that we live in a world where we need to work with and understand people from so many different cultures.

She says that the Foreign Office is launching the Diplomatic Academy, essentially a finishing school for diplomats, to help them through these social and cultural minefields and make them the best in the world.

Of course, it’s not just diplomats who need this sort of knowledge – it’s everyone in business who wants to export their products to other countries or has a multicultural workforce. As Jenni puts it:

‘How many of us know that Finnish acquaintances should never be hugged or kissed; that two or three-minute pauses in conversation are common and should not be interrupted, and that a careless British phrase such as “We should have lunch” will be taken as a solemn invitation when all we mean is: “I like you but I may well never see you again”?

‘Or that the Dutch get down to frank business negotiations immediately and will proceed fast once consensus is reached, whereas the Portuguese expect several discursive meetings before any clear results? That the French would prefer you to blow your nose in private, that Americans expect brief questions and answers in social situations and get uncomfortable if anyone holds the floor for a long time; that you should not show anger or attempt to tell jokes in Singapore? That Turks will be deeply offended if the sole of your shoe faces them? Or that in some Asian cultures, by advancing on anybody with your arm outstretched, insisting on eye contact and saying: “Hello, I’m Bill”, (or Jane), you might be offending on three fronts at once?’Go Global

Our Go Global product includes notes on culture for each language you want your documents translated into – and of course, we can translate documents and provide interpreting for your workforce too.


You can read the full article here (paywall)

Tess Wright Chief Executive


image credit: Henkster

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